14 April 2010
Palestinian Youth Sees Business Opportunity in Entertaining Peers
This article is part of a series on delegates to the April 26–27 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.
By Phil Kurata
Staff Writer (Department of State)
Washington — A Palestinian youth who was named “Best Student CEO in the Arab World” a few years ago has her sights set on studying entrepreneurship in the United States in preparation for becoming an independent businesswoman. Considering what she has already accomplished, perhaps she should be teaching entrepreneurship.
When 20-year-old Wad Taweel was in high school in Ramallah, she started Teen Touch, a company that organized special events, such as birthday parties. Taweel hired 28 classmates to staff her business that, for example, sent out invitations, rented facilities and arranged for catered food.
“We took care of all the arrangements from A to Z. We made all kinds of cakes for children’s birthdays and other holidays. We decorated people’s houses, schools, buildings and banks in Ramallah at Christmas,” Taweel said.
After six months in operation, Taweel sold her business and distributed profits to investors, as the rules for the INJAZ student entrepreneurship competition required. INJAZ, which means “achievement” in Arabic, is a program launched by Jordan’s Queen Rania in 1999 to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills in young people. The INJAZ program has spread to 11 other Arab countries.
Teen Touch won the local INJAZ competition in Ramallah, and then entered the inter-Arab competition in Amman, Jordan, where student entrepreneurs from other countries displayed their businesses. “At the Amman awards ceremony, I was selected the best student CEO [chief executive officer] in the Arab world. My company took the honor of best student company,” Taweel said.
Taweel now is in her second year at Birzeit University in Ramallah, where she studies accounting and business. After completing her degree, Taweel hopes to earn an advanced degree in entrepreneurship from a U.S. university. President Obama has invited her to the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, which he will host in Washington April 26–27. Taweel will be a featured speaker on the panel on youth entrepreneurship.
She has already identified her next business venture. She wants to build a recreation and entertainment center for Palestinian youth in the West Bank. “I want it to be a unique gathering place where fun, amusement, laughter and personal growth with friends and family are the primary focus,” Taweel said. She envisions that the center will have a bowling alley, a skating rink, a miniature golf course, and a library, with books and magazines from abroad and from within the Palestinian Territories. Such a center is badly needed, she said, because of the grim lives that many Palestinian youths lead.
Taweel has no illusions about the difficulty in launching the center. “The economic situation in Palestine has been deteriorating day by day. Starting a new business requires high financial support. This is a big obstacle that many entrepreneurs with great business ideas are facing. It is preventing them from starting their businesses early on,” she said.
Taweel wants to lead the life of an entrepreneur. “I want to have my own business, where I can work at my full potential and put all my energy and time into making my business a successful and lasting one. I want to help other people in my community and give them job opportunities,” she said.